Joanna Booth explores the enriching side of a holiday to Greece
High above Athens, with a roof supported
on slender columns, there is an airy monument that looks out to sea. However, this one is more than four times the size of the Parthenon and 2,500 years younger.
The Lighthouse/reading room, at the top of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (snfcc.org), pictured above, is a monumental new space built to house the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. This concrete-and-glass building, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is the focus of a former parking lot turned urban green space, peppered with olive, almond, fig and pomegranate trees.
ART AND CRAFTS
Greece may be most famous for its ancient history, but this is a country where creativity has never stopped flourishing. Ample proof is on show at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), below left. Another newcomer to the Athens exhibition scene, the EMST (emst.gr) has opened in the former Fix brewery, where visitors can see modern Greek art, from paintings and sculptures to complete installations.
SILVER AND ARBOREAL SKILLS
New museums are also presenting Greece’s ancient heritage in inventive and exciting ways. The Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation has a network of themed museums dotted across the country and two new openings shed light on traditional Greek crafts.
In Ioannina, within the city’s ancient castle, the Silversmithing Museum (piop.gr/en), pictured right, showcases the centuries of skill in the Epirus region, with the glistening exhibits explained with innovative audio-visual and multimedia techniques.
On the island of Chios, the Mastic Museum (piop.gr/en) brings to life the time-honoured methods of cultivating this tree. Its gum is used in medicine, industry and food – as visitors can taste in the café, with a cup of mastic-flavoured coffee.
Roughly chop the cima di rapa stalks. Cook them for about a minute in salted boiling water, drain, and set aside to cool.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until light golden but no darker.
Add a splash of the milk and whisk until it is fully incorporated, becoming smooth and lump-free. Carry on with this process, slowly, until all the milk has been added.
Cook this down for about 20 minutes, whisking constantly on a low heat, until you get a very thick and smooth consistency. You might need to add a little more milk if you get to the right consistency too quickly, to make sure the flour gets cooked.
Remove from the heat, add the cooked cima di rapa stalks and season to taste with salt and the parmesan. Transfer to a large baking tray and cool completely in the fridge, until it’s no longer sticky when touched.
Crumble the leftover cheese scraps into small pieces all over the cream, and shape it into small croquettes about the size of eggs, making sure each gets a little bit of cheese.
Coat each croquette in a little flour, then the egg, then breadcrumbs. Leave to cool.
Deep-fry in vegetable oil (at least 180-190C), in batches if necessary. Delicious with any greens. what Gyngell calls ‘a graceful and economic way of c o ok i ng ’. Where a n unloved bit of lamb shank may have been dest i ned for t he dog ’s di nner, Gyngell hopes to show that, ‘if braised for a while it can be delicious and make a whole new supper’.
Scratch will be at t he hear t of t he chef ’s new project which launches this Wednesday. Table, a ‘democratic eating house’, will run for the five days of Photo London, the international photography fair taking place at Somerset House. Here, farmers will meet diners, volunteers will wait tables, and seats bought with ‘solidarity tickets’ will be of fered to t hose who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it. ‘It’s an idea I’ve harboured for about 15 years,’ Gyngell explains, ‘that food can be a power- ful creator of community.’ With Daylesford’s Carole Bamford as patron, it has come to fruition, with a menu starring Scotter ’s overg rown veg, along wit h su r plu s but ter mil k f rom L a F romagerie in Marylebone, cheese offcuts from Bermondsey’s Mons Cheesemongers, and Toast Ale, brewed with bread offcuts other wise headed for the bin, among many other producers.
Table celebrates Spr ing a nd Fer n Ver row’s ‘beaut if ul yet challeng ing ’ relationship and opens the conversation up to others. ‘Chefs are crying out for the chance to work directly wit h farmers, and we are lucky to have found someone like Skye who can suppor t us,’ says Scotter. ‘And af ter all, there’s nothing like the thrill of being thrifty.’